My little man turned 5 at the beginning of the month! This called for some great cake. I had originally planned on making cupcakes for his party. He wanted an Under the Sea theme, so I was going to make chocolate cupcakes with blue frosting and sugar corals for toppers. Then he informed me that he wanted a big round cake in his serious, stubborn voice that meant there would be no use trying to steer him down the easier path. So I changed gears and set out to make him excited. There was never any doubt about the flavor of the cake, he’s a giant chocoholic.
I decided on a salted caramel and whipped vanilla bean cream for the filling and a cooked flour, brown sugar frosting. I decided that it would be easier to make the decorations from white chocolate rather than making them from sugar and it saved me a drive into Portland. While the cake baked and cooled, I played with food coloring, wax paper, a couple ziplock bags (my pastry bags were in my husbands car) and melted white chocolate. It was fun making wonky shapes and thinking about what different corals look like, trying to replicate it. I didn’t get to critical with them though, I was only using a baggie after all to make them!
Cold layered cakes are always best for when you are frosting a cake. You should have seen this cake as I was carrying it to the spare fridge, all wibbly wobbly. The next day it was solid and sturdy. The cooked flour frosting needs a little work before I do it again. I’m not entirely sure if it was the new recipe I tried, or replacing the granulated sugar partly with brown, but it wouldn’t come together as creamy as I know my mom makes. Not to say that it tasted awful, or was curdled, but it didn’t give me a smooth cake and I didn’t want to fiddle with it too much. Also, next time I make cake, I must remember to get some cardboard circles from work. In a fit of desperation, I cut out circles from an opened box of legos that he had gotten from mom and dad. I meant to stack the cake on the brown side, but wasn’t thinking and started layering on the picture side. I guess it was appropriate, and it worked well. The chocolate decorations were such a cute detail. Overall, I’m very happy with how it all turned out.
The little man was thrilled and as with every child, got caught licking a finger-full of frosting off the side the night of his party. The cake is one of the moistest, most tender chocolate cakes I have made in a while. I’ll be making this again and I hope you like it too!
For the Cake:
2 cups Sugar
1 3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
3/4 cup Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 t Baking Soda AND Baking Powder
1 t Salt
1 cup Milk
2 ea Eggs
1/2 cup Butter, melted and cooled
1 cup Hot water
1 t Espresso Powder
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9 inch round cake pans and dust with flour. Tap out the excess and set aside. Do not skip this step, or skimp. The cake will stick to the bottom and crack when you are trying to remove it from the pan.
Stir together in a large bowl the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add milk, eggs and melted butter. Beat together for 2 minutes. Add the espresso powder to the hot water and stir until dissolved. Gently fold the water into the batter and then beat until it is well blended. This makes a thin batter. Divide between the two pans.
Bake the cakes for 25 minutes, then rotate and bake for another 5-8 minutes. You can tell when a cake is done 2 ways, by gently touching the top and seeing the cake spring back, or if your still unsure, use a toothpick in the center. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. Cool for 10 minutes before flipping the cake onto a rack to cool completely.
For the Caramel:
1 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Water
2 T Light Corn Syrup
3/4 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1/4 cup Butter, diced
Large pinch of Kosher Salt
In a small sauce pan, pour in the water and corn syrup first, then dump in the sugar. Make sure all the sugar is wet, then set the pan on medium high heat. Once the sugar starts bubbling, brush down the sides with a wet brush and stop stirring the pot. Just let it sit there until you start to see some brown coloring. Swirl the pot until you reach a nice amber color, then quickly add the cream. The caramel will bubble up and triple in volume during this volcanic moment. Be careful. Add the butter and the salt and cool to room temperature.
For the Whipped Vanilla Cream:
3T Cold Water
1 3/4 t Gelatin
2 1/4 C Chilled Heavy Whipping Cream, divided
2T Powdered Sugar
2 t Vanilla Bean Paste
Place the cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the top. Let the gelatin bloom for 10 minutes. In a small sauce pan, heat a 1/4 cup of cream until simmering. Pour over the gelatin and stir to dissolve. Put the bowl in the fridge and stir it often until it is cool to touch, but not set. Meanwhile, whip the cream and powdered sugar until soft peaks for. Add the vanilla and the gelatin and beat until medium-firm peaks form.
Split the cakes in half. Place the first half on a round piece of cardboard and drizzle a third of the caramel on top. Spread a third of the whipped cream on top, almost to the edges (the weight of the top layers will push it all the way out) then top with another layer of cake and continue on layer. I saved a little cream and pushed it into the sides to fill up any gaps. An off set spatula is really helpful for this. Chill the cake for several hours. No rushing this people! It will make frosting it a breeze if you can wait until it is set. I let it set overnight.
Frost with your favorite buttercream frosting. I don’t want to share the cooked flour brown sugar recipe yet. When I get it right, I will do a post about it! Hope you enjoy the cake and if you have any questions, let me know!